Professional footballer Josh Cavallo took to social media to call out the homophobic abuse directed at him during an A-League match between Adelaide United FC and Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park, Saturday night.

“I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see or hear the homophobic abuse at the game last night,” Cavallo said in a statement posted to his social media accounts.

‘Hate Never Will Win’

“There are no words to tell you how disappointed I was. As a society it shows we still face these problems in 2022. This shouldn’t be acceptable and we need to do more to hold these people accountable. Hate never will win. I will never apologise for living my truth and most recently who I am outside of football.”

“To all the young people who have received homophobic abuse, hold your heads up high and keep chasing your dreams. Know that there is no place in the game for this. Football is a game for everyone no matter of who you are, what colour your skin is or where you come from.”

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Cavallo was also critical of social media companies, including Instagram, saying, “I don’t want any child or adult to have to receive the hateful and hurtful messages that I’ve received. I knew truely [sic] being who I am that I was going to come across this. It’s a sad reality that your platforms are not doing enough to stop these messages.”

“Thank you to all the positive messages, love and support, seeing that far outweighs the negativity. To the individuals that reached out after making a stand at the game. I commend you. Thank you to those fans, you had me emotional.”

“Love will always win,” Cavallo said.

Cavallo had taken to the field 54 minutes into the game as a second-half substitute, but was forced from the game in the 97th minute after taking an elbow to the head from Victory’s Lleyton Brooks. Cavallo had blurred vision in one eye due to the strike, but a concussion was later ruled out.

The match between Adelaide United FC and Melbourne Victory, also known as the “Original Rivalry,” ended in a 1-1 draw.

In October, Cavallo, 22, made worldwide headlines when he became the first out top-flight professional football player in the world. Cavallo came out in a social media post saying, “It’s been a journey to get to this point in my life, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to come out. I have been fighting my sexuality for over six years now, and I’m glad I can put that to rest.”

‘Identify Perpetrators and Prosecute Them Accordingly’

Melbourne Victory responded to the incident, saying in a statement, “The Club is committed to celebrating diversity in football, and strongly condemns this behaviour, which has no place at our Club or in our game.”

“Melbourne Victory sees football as a platform to unite fans, no matter what background. Spectators found to have breached these standards will be banned from future matches. The Club is working with the League, stadium and Adelaide United to investigate the matter further.”

Adelaide United chief executive Nathan Kosmina said, in a statement, “We are appalled by the verbal abuse Josh received by fans at AAMI Park last night.”

“Adelaide United is proud to be an inclusive and diverse football club, and to see one of our players subjected to homophobic abuse is disappointing and upsetting.”

“Josh continues to show immense courage and we join him in calling out abuse, which has no place in society, and it will not be tolerated by our Club. We will continue to work with the Australian Professional Leagues and Melbourne Victory to identify perpetrators and prosecute them accordingly.”

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Australian Professional League’s (APL) chief executive Danny Townsend, in a statement, said, “Our players, staff and fans have the right to feel safe, on and off the pitch.”

“There is no place for bullying, harassment or abuse in Australian football and we have zero tolerance for this harmful behaviour. We are working with both clubs to investigate the incident and will issue sanctions to any people found to be involved.”

“We fully support Josh Cavallo and want to ensure he can focus on his football performance, rather than on vile abuse. We will continue to concentrate our efforts on creating safe and welcoming A-Leagues for all,” Townsend said.

‘Homophobia Has no Place in Sport or Wider Society’

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Cavallo received an outpouring of support on social media following his statement.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tweeted, “Good on Josh Cavallo for calling this out. Nobody deserves to be subjected to homophobic abuse anywhere, including their workplace. I hope the clubs and the codes are taking this extremely seriously.”

Versus tweeted, “We stand in solidarity with Josh Cavallo. Homophobia has no place in sport or wider society. Individuals like Josh are paving the way for a better, more inclusive game. One where people are unapologetically themselves and understand there’s strength in diversity, not weakness.”

Ian Roberts tweeted, “Proud to see [Joshua Cavallo] taking a stand against homophobic abuse! Thanks to [Adelaide United], [Melbourne Victory] & [Football Australia] standing up also. Looking for the [Isuzu UTE A-League] response now. Stay strong Josh!”

The Isuzu UTE A-League responded to Robert’s tweet, saying, “Football is for everyone.”

Football Australia tweeted, “Football Australia stands with you, [Joshua Cavallo]. As one of the most diverse and inclusive sports in Australia, we must all work together to stamp out homophobia and abuse, and ensure football is a safe space for everyone.”

Racing Pride tweeted, “Racing Pride stands in complete solidarity with Josh Cavallo. There’s a lot still to be done across sport to make the LGBTQ+ community fully included and accepted. We send our love and respect to all sportspeople who are leading the way by being their authentic selves.”

In a statement, Professional Footballers Australia co-chief executives Beau Busch and Kathryn Gill said, “Josh has shown remarkable courage and those who sought to abuse him in the stadium online have illustrated their cowardice.”

“There is no place in our game, or society, for those who direct abhorrent abuse at others. Josh will continue to have the full sport of the PFA and his peers. We will work with the APL, and the authorities, to ensure that those who subjected Josh to vile abuse are dealt with and that as a game we live up to our zero-tolerance commitment.”

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